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Student awards are a community investment for Okanagan family

March 8, 2016

“When Jean and I became interested in philanthropy, we wanted to do something that would make a difference in our community,” says Ken Finch, an Okanagan businessman and UBC alumni who graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering in 1968.

As part of Ken and Jean Finch’s commitment to enhancing the growth and prosperity of the Okanagan valley, they have made a generous gift to UBC Okanagan and established the Finch Family Undergraduate Award and the Finch Family Graduate Award.

Ken and Jean have a long history in the region. Their grandchildren are the fifth generation to live in the valley. “My grandfather was a sheep herder,” explains Jean. “And our grandmother, who was a graduate of the University of Aberdeen, was in great demand as a talented pianist and frequently played in the movie houses before audio came along.”

Although the Okanagan is traditionally an agricultural and service based community, Ken and Jean envisioned a cause that would stimulate new growth and industry in a way that was clean and sustainable. They began looking at different options and gradually came to understand the role UBCO could play.

“Getting a post-secondary education in the Okanagan increases the likelihood that graduates will stay here,” says Ken. “One of best ways for the region to grow and develop is to enhance the opportunities for young people by investing in education.”

The substantial awards created by Ken and Jean Finch recognize students who demonstrate a combination of academic achievement and community leadership.

“We wanted to support academically gifted students who had a vision of how they were going to use their education, not only to create a career but also to have a positive impact on society” says Ken.

The first Finch Family Graduate Award was presented in 2014 to Christopher Collier, a PhD candidate in the School of Engineering. The Undergraduate Award went to Zachary Holland, a computer sciences student, at the Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences.

Supporting student awards is increasingly important as they provide relief from the rising costs of post-secondary education and tuition. For many recipients, these gifts are an opportunity to focus on studying and push themselves harder.

“It feels really good that we are here to see things put in place,” says Jean, who joined Ken and their two daughters to meet the inaugural award recipients at the presentation ceremony. “The students take great pride in receiving these awards. It’s nice to see that happening while we’re still around.”

“Creating a gift like this makes you more optimistic about the future,” adds Ken. “We chose to support UBCO because it allowed us to make an impact in the community and improve the lives of local families. It was a way for us to encourage sustainable development in a special place like the Okanagan.”